Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/248

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Jeffreys with riches and titles. This language however was at first held but by few. The Whigs, as a party, seem to have felt that they could not honourably defend, in the season of their prosperity, what, in the time of their adversity, they had always designated as a crying grievance. A bill for regulating trials in cases of high treason was brought into the House of Commons, and was received with general applause. Treby had the courage to make some objections; but no division took place. The chief enactments were that no person should be convicted of high treason committed more than three years before the indictment was found; that every person indicted for high treason should be allowed to avail himself of the assistance of counsel, and should be furnished, ten days before the trial, with a copy of the indictment, and with a list of the freeholders from among whom the jury was to be taken; that his witnesses should be sworn, and that they should be cited by the same process by which the attendance of the witnesses against him was secured.

The Bill went to the Upper House, and came back with an important amendment. The Lords had long complained of the anomalous and iniquitous constitution of that tribunal which had jurisdiction over them in cases of life and death. When a grand jury has found a bill of indictment against a temporal peer for any offence higher than a misdemeanour, the Crown appoints a Lord High Steward; and in the Lord High Steward's Court the case is tried. This Court was anciently composed in two very different ways. It consisted, if Parliament happened to be sitting, of all the members of the Upper House. When Parliament was not sitting, the Lord High Steward summoned any twelve or more peers at his discretion to form a jury. The consequence was that a peer accused of high treason during a recess was tried by a jury which his prosecutors had packed. The Lords now demanded that, during a recess as well as during a session, every peer accused of high treason should be tried by the whole body of the peerage.

The demand was resisted by the House of Commons with a vehemence and obstinacy which men of the present generation